May 25, 2015

Painting a Butterfly in Photoshop

In case you're curious how painting on the computer differs from painting on real canvas, I thought I'd put together this little tutorial of painting a simple butterfly in Photoshop CS5 so you can see that, other than not having brushes to clean, it's really not that different.

I'm still somewhat new to painting on the computer so this may not be the best or most efficient way to paint in Photoshop but, coming from traditional oils, my method is similar.

First, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start blocking in the basic shape and colors of the butterfly just as I would on canvas with real paint. I used a simple PS hard round brush for this.

After I was done with the rough blocking in I put another layer under the butterfly and filled it with hot pink. I use hot pink because it's definitely eye-catching and unlikely to be used anywhere else in most wildlife scenes. This helps me see if I missed any spots, such as leaving holes in the butterfly. It also makes outside smudges show up easily, like the one above the butterfly's left wing, so I can be sure to clean that up.

Once the holes are filled and the smudges cleaned I hide or delete the pink layer and continue to work on the butterfly, now blocking in more details. Here I've added the smaller spots around the edges of the wings.

Now that it's all blocked in it's looking a bit too much like graphic art with harsh lines and sharp edges everywhere. That doesn't look much like a painting. So next I switch to the Mixer Brush in Photoshop and set it to Wet. I turn off the setting to Load the brush after each stroke so no color will be added when I paint on the butterfly. At this point I just want to blend and soften the existing colors. I also turn on the setting to Clean the brush after each stroke so color from one part does not contaminate colors on another part. I pick a basic brush type from the Brush panel and set the Hardness to 0 so we have soft edges.

Next I go around the edges of the colors of the butterfly and blend them slightly to get them a softer look. I do this by hand rather than using some Photoshop filter because I want the blending to be a little irregular and uneven so it looks natural, as you would expect in a real hand-painted piece of artwork. Here's a close-up of a portion of the wing after blending.

Here's the finished butterfly with the background added. The flowers were painted in much the same way as the butterfly.

If you're new to painting in Photoshop, or just curious, I hope this has been helpful. If you are already experienced in painting with Photoshop and have some tips or suggestions on how I can can improve my Photoshop art, or work more efficiently, feel free to contact me or leave suggestions in the comments here. Thanks!

May 9, 2015

New Goldfinches and Birdhouse Painting

Just finished up a variation of my previous birds and birdhouses painting.

Goldfinch Garden Home
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May 2, 2015

New Birds and Birdbath Painting

I just finished another new digital painting of some birds and a birdbath in a spring garden. Here we have eastern bluebirds and goldfinches enjoying a stone birdbath fountain water feature. Behind them is a white picket fence covered with a purple clematis vine, and yellow and blue daisies fill the garden below.

Fountain Festivities
Original: Digital

I want to clarify something about my digital art. A lot of people seem to scoff at the idea of a digital painting being fine art. I can understand why since, if you were to do a Google search for "oil painting in Photoshop" for example, you will find tutorials on how to make a photograph look like an oil painting. Unfortunately, a lot of people will do this sort of photo manipulation and try to pass it off as a real painting, or at least least hand-painted in Photoshop or the like. Taking a photograph and using the mixer brush on it in PS to give it a painted look is not hand-painted art, in my opinion. So I can understand why people are skeptical when someone claims their image is a digital "painting".

I want to point out that my paintings are all hand-painted from scratch. I paint each and every brush stroke of my digital painting by hand just as I would a real oil. There is no photo manipulation in this painting. There are no photographic elements at all in it, in fact. The only "cheating" I do in digital painting is reusing some of the elements from other paintings I did. For example, I did use parts of the birds from my previous birds and birdhouses painting. It isn't as simple as copying and pasting in most cases, though. I did things like turn heads, and adjust feet and shadows, so it still required some work. But this was only after creating the first image one brush stroke at a time. A digital painting can be just as much work, and take just as long to create, as an original oil painting. So I hope you can appreciate the time and effort that can go into such a piece next time you see a digital painting.

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